There’s a homeless man in a wheelchair who has been outside of the McDonald’s for the past few days. He has a sign that just says: “Help”. I’ve handed him a few bucks each time I see him, but it never feels like enough.
Yesterday, I got into the shower. It was a little bit cold, so when my cold feet hit the warm water, I felt that delicious burning feeling, as my feet warmed up. It’s one of those sensations that makes me aware of how alive I am—how firmly my body is grounded in this physical reality. As I put my feet in the water, and I felt that lovely feeling spread from my toes, up through my ankles, I flexed my toes and I thought of that homeless guy. He doesn’t have feet. Just these prosthetic legs below the knees. And I thought, “I wish I could give him this instead.”
I’m lying in my bed this morning, staring at the ceiling, listening to Video Killed the Radio Star. There are a lot of memories attached to this song for me. They’re not memories from the 80s, because I was just a kid when this song came out. My memories are from the late 90s, when I was a freshman in college. Back when it took hours and hours to create an mp3 file on my computer. I’d start the process of ripping a disc, and go to bed. I would wake up in the morning crossing my fingers that the process had completed correctly, and that it didn’t error out in the middle of the night. There was a peer-to-peer network on campus, and people shared their music files. They shut it down after a while, but I was there during this sweet spot when the techy kids were all excited about their brand new shiny mp3 files and the university hadn’t quite caught on yet. This mp3, Video Killed the Radio Star, was one of the ones that I had. And I remember playing it in my dorm room. I never knew the name of the person who put it there for me. An anonymous student, one of the thousands I passed by on campus every day, sharing something they liked with someone they didn’t even know.
There is an intimacy about sharing music with someone. Because music touches people so deeply, sharing your music can be like touching your heart to theirs with an electric wire. Words can be like this, in the hands of the poets and great authors. I am not a poet. But for me, sharing music is sharing those deep places inside that you can’t reach other ways. Playing music with others can be as intimate as sex (or more intimate, depending on the kind of music you’re playing and the quality of the sex). In a way, sharing music with these strangers on the college campus felt like waking up in their beds, blindfolded. I never knew who they were. Just that they were warm and breathing, hearts beating, waking up and living and loving, somewhere close to me.
This morning, I turned the music on with a controller on my phone. I didn’t even need to leave the comfort of my warm blankets to start piping the music into the room. Digital music files are no longer only owned by those dedicated enough to spend all night ripping an album. The world is filled with music, and it’s an amazing place. But sometimes I miss those early days. Before I could find anything I wanted on YouTube, and I was more dependent on the kindness of strangers.